Food enzymes are actually a very important health factor in the food that we consume. The importance of these enzymes is still not clear to many people.
When I was younger, I used to associate enzymes only with digestion. But apparently, it is more than that. Enzymes are protein-based substances that act as catalysts for the systems in the body. The truth is that not just the digestive system, but our immune system, bloodstream and the cells, tissues – basically all chemical action in our body depend on enzymes. But what is the relation between the enzymes produced naturally in our body and the enzymes that are contained in the food that we eat?
In his book, Enzyme Nutrition, Dr. Edward Howell, a prominent biochemist, and nutrition researcher has written extensively about the importance of food enzymes. According to Dr. Howell, although a human being’s digestive organs produce enzymes, these enzymes will become depleted as we age, and this can potentially lead to health problems and illnesses. Our internal enzymes activity can also be influenced by poor dietary choices and lifestyle such as alcohol and drug consumption.
This fact shows how the enzymes contained in our food are necessary to maintain a good state of health. Another way to look at it is to consider them as “helpers”, since when we eat raw food (that has a high amount of enzymes), these enzymes start the digestion process, so there are sufficient metabolic enzymes (produced by the pancreas) to ensure that the systems in our body function properly. However, without them, our organs have to secrete a large number of enzymes to help the digestion process and this somehow limits the number of metabolic enzymes.
Dr. Lita Lowell of Lowell, Oregon states that “By eating raw foods and taking food enzymes, 30% of the protein and 10% of the fat can be digested in the stomach in less than one hour.”
Nutritionist Natalia Rose wrote in her book, The Raw Detox Diet, “The more enzymes you take in through raw plant food, the wealthier your enzyme bank account becomes.”
The enzymes contained in the food will be destroyed when subjected to heat. This is why raw food generally is a good source of enzymes as opposed to processed food since processed food are subjected to heat processes one way or another. Honey, for instance, contain enzymes that are good for the health when it is eaten raw. Since raw honey is not subjected to heat treatment, the enzymes remain present and active.
Nobel Prize winner and biochemist, Professor Artturi Virtanen, showed that enzymes are released into the mouth when raw vegetables are chewed, and when they come into contact with the food, the digestion process starts. Contrary to some researchers’ claim that the enzymes in raw food are denatured by the stomach hydrochloric acid, the food enzymes actually remain present and active throughout the digestive tract.
So what happens when we lack enzymes?
There are many effects or disorders resulting from enzyme deficiency. For instance, one type of disorder known as congenital adrenal hyperplasia is caused by an enzyme deficiency in the adrenal gland.
Another type of disorder, intestinal toxemia can result in an enzyme deficiency when food is undigested and stays in the colon. This will cause it to be fermented and produce toxins that will eventually be absorbed by the bloodstream.
What’s the next step?
Always make good dietary choices. This means maximizing your enzyme intake by choosing enzyme-rich food because this will inhibit serious health problems resulting from enzyme-deficiency. Consume more fresh, raw fruits and vegetables, raw honey, yogurt, and sprouts. Raw honey is packed with a high amount of healthy enzymes although taken in small quantities. Try to eliminate processed food due to the reason that was mentioned previously: the heat treatment that will destroy the enzymes in the food.
Preserving food by adding food additives is also another method that depletes our food of enzymes.
You may think that eating food is the only condition that destroys enzymes, but actually storing food at an extremely low temperature also can cause enzyme inactivity. So be sure that your food is stored at an ideal temperature. Learn about other factors that can deplete food enzymes and try to avoid them.